Our Guides

History of Up The Creek Xpeditions

Up The Creek Xpeditions opened in 1997 as a full-service kayak outfitter. Starting with only 8-kayaks and the help of several dear friends, we were able to grow the fleet to almost 100-kayaks within the first two-years of operations. Kayaking in this area was just starting to gain popularity; and we had several friends who were interested in learning, training and becoming professional kayak instructors. The original guide staff consisted of Jennifer and Pete Koerner, Pete Gallagher, Dave Luebbert and Gerald Koerner (Pete’s dad) — along with several other serious kayakers helping on a part-time basis with larger trips. We started with relatively small groups, but with such a large staff of professional kayak instructors on hand, we were able to grow the size of our kayak trips as fast as we could grow our fleet — without sacrificing our standards for safety or customer service.

Within a couple years, Up The Creek had created and perfected large-group kayaking trips for luxury resorts — paying attention to every detail in an effort to create the ultimate kayak trip. Using high-end kayaks and equipment, rather than the outfitter-grade, livery equipment most tour operators use, gives our guests an upgraded experience. With a large, highly-trained staff of professional guides and instructors, we’re able to provide highly personalized service and maintain the highest safety standards in the industry. For almost two-decades, Up The Creek has offered group kayaking adventures and team-building outings in the St.Marys-Kingsland, Georgia area, on Amelia Island and in Jacksonville, Florida — with a perfect customer satisfaction and safety record.

Along with the growing fleet came a growing retail operation which also featured almost 100-kayaks inside the store! Ironically, running a kayak shop kept at least one of us off the water all the time, so the retail store had to go. In 2010, the retail store was closed and Up The Creek began focusing exclusively on tours, instruction and rentals. Currently, Up The Creek Xpeditions maintains the largest fleet of kayaks in the area and still operates seven-days-a-week — as it has since 1997.

In 2014, Up The Creek began offering War Canoe tours in 25′ and 29′ Voyageur-style Canoes in order create a broader selection of activities and to open up our scenic on-water environment to a wider range of individuals. It is our desire to share fun, excitement and education with our guests in a safe and memorable way; and our on-water operations are designed to do exactly that. We cater to beginners and paddlers of any age because we believe anyone can paddle; and we want to make paddling accessible to anyone willing to give it a try. We always treat our customers like family, and we want your paddling experience to be an unforgettable one.

Thank you for your interest in our business and we look forward to serving you very soon.

Sincerely,
Jen and Pete

Our Mission Statement

At Up The Creek Xpeditions, our mission is to empower each guest and enrich their lives by providing a unique, safe and memorable on-water experience, while opening eyes, hearts and minds to the beauty that surrounds us and the role nature plays in a healthy planet. Our team is dedicated to acting as stewards of our planet and protecting and preserving our natural resources while teaching others to do the same. We take pride in every satisfied customer we have served since opening our doors; and we look forward to sharing our passion and experience with you.

Our Team and Training

Up The Creek's Interpretive Guide Staff

Some of Up The Creek’s Interpretive Guide Staff

At Up The Creek Xpeditions, SAFETY is our number one priority. Proper training to prevent accidents is more important to us than any other part of our business. Our professional guides go through a comprehensive training regimen before leading tours on their own. We bring in a team of world-class paddling coaches to lead a series of multi-day seminars intended to hone our skills to a fine edge prior to the busy season. Additionally, guides regularly attend symposiums, classes and in-house training where we work on advanced skills, rescues, and risk management procedures. When you’re on the water with Up The Creek, our guides are completely dedicated to keeping you safe.

To back-up our safety and risk management training, we have invested in the best safety equipment in the industry. We use high-end kayaks and Voyageur-style Canoes specifically chosen for their stability, performance, outfitting and safety. We use transitional kayaks with both front and rear bulkheads for flotation and safety in deep saltwater environments. Additionally, guides wear state-of-the-art PFD’s outfitted with redundant emergency gear and use the best available paddling gear and equipment. Even on our 2-hour, half-day trips, our guides carry a minimum of: VHF Marine radio, cell phone, Emergency towing systems, Signaling devices, a comprehensive repair kit, first-aid kits, extra clothes, charts, compasses, rope, webbing, extra food/water and rescue knives. No matter what happens, if we need it — we’ll have it.

We are extremely fortunate to have been able to attract and retain some truly outstanding individuals to lead our trips. In addition to being highly-skilled paddling professionals, our guides are all current or former Fire/Rescue/EMS or U.S. Military personnel or educators specializing in group management, risk management and emergency response. Anyone who has been on any sort of guided trip understands the necessity of having a quality leader. Our staff are chosen for their leadership skills and judgment, and for their ability to provide you with knowledge of the area in a fun and meaningful way. When you paddle with Up The Creek, you are always under a watchful eye of seasoned professionals and in the best possible hands.


Co-Owner and D.O.F. (Director of Fun) ~ Jennifer Koerner

jenguidesmJennifer Koerner is a professional, open-water kayaking instructor, paddleboard instructor and an expert in group management. As a professional kayaker for the past two-decades, Jennifer’s passion is sharing her love of nature while sharing her love of kayaking. Specializing in empowering beginners and building confidence and resilience, Jennifer is an inspirational instructor, guide and leader. As Up The Creek’s Director of Fun, Jennifer is a specialist at ensuring each guest is comfortable, happy and having a great time on their adventure; and, having been a Firefighter/EMT for more than a decade, she is more than capable of keeping each guest safe and quickly and effectively resolving any situation that might arise. Jennifer is also a health and wellness expert and has owned and operated a Healing Center and Coaching Practice for almost 20-years — helping individuals naturally overcome both physical and psychological obstacles and limitations. Jennifer regularly teaches and speaks to groups and businesses about peak performance and personal development.


Co-Owner and Fearless Leader ~ Pete Koerner


petebiosmPete Koerner is the Director of Safety at Up The Creek and has been a professional open-water kayaking instructor for almost 20-years. Having been a firefighter for over 27-years, and a pilot for more than 22-years, there’s not a more safety-conscious person on the water. Pete worked in both fire/rescue and EMS in Atlanta and Camden County in Coastal Georgia — working as an instructor and serving on swift-water rescue and dive teams along with other special operations units. Pete also served as an instructor at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center/Georgia Fire Academy — teaching firefighters, paramedics and police officers various public safety disciplines. Pete utilizes his safety, risk management and instruction background to maintain the highest safety standards in the industry.


John Pemberton ~ Lead Guide and Florida Coastal Naturalist


johnpsmJohn is a Professional Kayak Instructor and Lead Guide at Up The Creek. John is an avid paddler with years of experience leading kayak trips and an impressive set of credentials, including ACA and NOLS certifications and certification as a Wilderness First Responder. As a Florida Master Naturalist, John is one of Up The Creek’s resident bird and wildlife experts. John is also a professional photographer and retired photojournalist who has traveled and seen the world through the lens of a camera. In addition to guiding at Up The Creek, John is an Interpretive Guide at the Timucuan Preserve regularly leading guided kayak trips from Pumpkin Hill and Cedar Point.


Rick Frey ~ Guide and Florida Master Naturalist


Rick Bio PicRick is a Certified Florida Master Naturalist and a professional interpretive kayak guide at Up The Creek. Rick is an accomplished athlete and a retired educator and has been a lead guide for several years. In addition to guiding with Up The Creek, Rick also works with White Oak Plantation developing and leading interpretive/naturalist programs.


Willie Hagin ~ Guide and Rescue Boater

willie guide picWillie has been a Kayak Guide and a member of the Up The Creek team since 2010. An avid outdoorsman, Willie has studied nature all his life and spends most of his time outside — kayaking, fishing and working with horses. Willie is also an experienced firefighter/EMT responsible for Camden Fire Rescue’s Engine 18 & Tanker 18 on A-shift. Willie also has advanced training in swift water rescue and other fire/rescue and emergency response disciplines. Willie and his wife, Amber, own and operate North Fork Equestrian Center in Camden County — also offering tours and instruction to share their love of horses and nature with others. Willie’s public safety and customer service background, as well as his vast knowledge of the outdoors and wildlife, make him a valuable asset as an interpretive kayak guide and safety boater.


Roland Simard ~ Adventure Athlete and Lead Guide

Roland Simard smRoland has been a professional kayak guide and an adventure racer for more than a decade-and-a-half. An accomplished racer, Roland has raced (and won) in single kayaks, tandem kayaks and on SUP’s in all conditions. Roland has also circumnavigated Cumberland Island in an “unofficial” 14-hours (he was with two other guides who slowed him down). Roland is another of our retired military personnel who bring a wealth of nautical knowledge and leadership experience to the Up The Creek staff.


Tom Woolf ~ Master Guide and Naturalist

tomw up the creek guideTom is an ACA L-4 Open Water Kayak Instructor and Master Guide with Up The Creek Xpeditions. Tom is also a professional educator, teaching at Camden County High School, and an Interpretive Naturalist leading trips for the Amelia Island Plantation Nature Center and The Tidelands Nature Center on Jekyll Island. Tom’s passion for kayaking is rivaled only by his passion for nature and education; and he is in his element when leading educational trips into the marsh and teaching from his kayak in his favorite classroom.


Pete Gallagher ~ Master Guide and Director of Fleet Operations

Pete GallagherPete has been a professional kayak instructor for two-decades and is the Director of Fleet Operations at Up The Creek. As an ACA L-4 Open Water Kayak Instructor, Pete was one of Up The Creek’s first Master Guides (along with Gerald K. and Pete K.) and was Up The Creek’s first sponsored racer. An accomplished white water boater and sea kayaker, Pete has led trips on both whitewater rivers and open water. Pete is also a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer who served as a Nuclear Engineer on nuclear submarines and as an Instructor. Pete’s vast nautical knowledge and experience, coupled with his razor-sharp kayaking skills has helped establish and maintain Up The Creek’s high performance standards.


John Nooney ~ Guide and Instructor

nooney sr bioJohn is an ACA certified kayak instructor and an accomplished kayak fisherman. John is also an expert on the waterways and history of Jacksonville, Florida and an active proponent and advocate for non-motorized water access in the St. Johns and other downtown waterways. John has been a kayak guide and fisherman for a number of years and has shown countless people some of Jacksonville’s best kept paddling and fishing secrets. An avid paddler and outdoorsman, John is a true water professional and a valued consultant and guide at Up The Creek.


Matt Laricos ~ Guide and Rescue Boater

mattlMatt is a professional Kayak Guide and a valued member of the Up The Creek team. An avid outdoorsman, Matt has studied nature all his life and spends most of his time outside — whether at work or play. In addition to being a kayak guide, Matt is also an experienced firefighter and trained EMT — with advanced training in several fire and rescue disciplines, including Wildland Firefighting. Matt served with Camden County Fire Rescue and the National Park Service before joining the Georgia Forestry Commission. Matt’s public safety and customer service background, as well as his vast knowledge of the outdoors and wildlife, make him a natural kayak guide and safety boater.